The End of Export-Led Democratization?

In Dissent, Daniele Archibugi, Ofra Bengio, Seyla Benhabib, Paul Berman, Mitchell Cohen, Thomas Cushman, John Lister, Shibley Telhami on what Iraq implies for the idea of “exporting” democracy. Paul Berman:

The question seems to me wrongly put in one aspect. To hurl curses and insults at the Bush administration is a worthy, right, and just thing to do; and yet there is no reason to trip all over ourselves in acknowledging that Bush and his administration did sincerely desire to achieve a democratic outcome in Iraq. For some sixty years before the Iraq War, American policy in the Middle East had nothing to do with democracy. American policy was based on a principle of malign stability, conducted in the belief that stable dictatorships would guarantee American interests.

The pursuit of malign stability governed America’s Iraq policy over the decades, and the results were unusually hideous, given that Baathism is a kind of fascism, and Baathist Iraq was an exceptionally murderous totalitarian state. The pursuit of stability led the United States to abandon the Iraqi Kurds in the mid-1970s; to support Saddam against the Iranians in the 1980s; to follow a policy of hands-off, see-no-evil serenity, even in 1988, when Saddam was once again massacring Kurds, this time at a more gigantic level than before, sometimes by means of poison gas, no less. And, in keeping with this same malign policy, the United States decided to leave Saddam in power after the 1991 war, even while applying sanctions and conducting a permanent mini-war, in order to prevent the dictatorship from starting up yet another war. The policy of malign stability grew, in short, ever more malign, until, in the years after 1991, we ourselves were inflicting damage on the Iraqi people with our sanctions. Iraqi society fell into a dreadful downward spiral, and the results were ghastly.